For a frightening glimpse into what may be in store for “Chicago’s Very Own” WGN-Channel 9 and WGN AM 720, look no further than to a chilling video montage that went viral over the weekend.
Posted by Deadspin, the video shows anchors from local stations owned by Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group reading a message that supports President Donald Trump’s attacks on the news media. (Here is the link.) All Sinclair stations were required to deliver the message exactly as scripted by the company.
Sinclair, already the largest TV station company in the country, plans to acquire Tribune Media, Chicago-based parent company of WGN and stations in more than 40 other cities. If approved, the $3.9 billion deal would put Sinclair into 72 percent of all U.S. households.
To comply with federal regulations, Sinclair has said it would divest ownership of WGN. But it would retain control over the station’s operation under a “shared services agreement.”
Critics have raised concerns about the concentration of media ownership under Sinclair and about how it uses the news departments of its local stations to advance pro-Trump propaganda. CNN revealed the latest example last month when it broke news of the media-bashing promos mandated to run on all of its stations.
Here are key excerpts from the script:
“We’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.
“More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories — stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first.
“Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think.’ This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.”
“The net result of the company’s current mandate is dozens upon dozens of local news anchors looking like hostages in proof-of-life videos, trying their hardest to spit out words attacking the industry they’d chosen as a life vocation,” Deadspin reported.
The specter of Sinclair taking over WGN comes as the station plans to commemorate its 70th anniversary Thursday with a one-hour primetime special, “WGN-TV: 70 Years as Chicago’s Very Own.”